GiGi’s Playhouse celebrated 20 years with the spectacular i have a voice gala

Sun. March 12, 2023 12:00 AM
by Jerry Nunn

Founded in 2003, GiGi's Playhouse is an organization providing services for individuals affected by Down syndrome, a genetic disorder from abnormal cell division that affects a person's development.

For 20 years, their coordinators have linked families to free programs such as career advancement and support groups. These services are separated into a range of age groups including prenatal. Their brand continues to expand with GiGiFit, heightening physical activity, and GiGi's Kitchen, promoting nutrition. Generation G is a recent campaign with the goal to promote global acceptance in over 57 locations in the United States

This important non-profit is solely funded through donations which calls attention to the importance of the annual i have a voice gala at the Renaissance Schaumburg Convention Center Hotel on March 12, 2023.

The fundraising committee reached out to model and actress Amanda Booth to speak at the event because of her personal experience of having a son with Down syndrome. It was the second year for her to attend after she received the prestigious Quincy Jones Exceptional Advocacy Award in 2019. Booth described that experience as, “simply amazing, and during those hard days that award gave me the fuel to keep going. The stride we are making in funding and research starts with places like GiGi's. They give tools to people to help them make a successful life.”

When asked about what a person can do to help with the cause, Booth said, “On social media, someone can share a story and create awareness. People can teach their children to be inclusive and that will help the next generation to be more understanding.”

She produced a love story music video for the band Delta Spirit's song “What's Done Is Done” starring Zack Gottsagen from The Peanut Butter Falcon and Jamie Brewer from American Horror Story. Brewer will be the first Down syndrome narrator ever to be in a feature-length movie for Booth's upcoming Jackie & the Rats.

Past Chicago Bears player Wendell Davis brought a large group of Retired Professional Football Players from Chicago to the festivities that evening. He explained, “I didn't know there was a program like this until we were invited to the gala years ago and we have been coming back ever since!”

Davis stated he's happy to use any platform he has to make a difference. His posse presented awards to individuals with outstanding contributions at the ceremony.

American Idol contestant Grace Kinstler sang to kick off the party, followed by video segments projected on large screens that left many attendees emotional after hearing stories of bullying and the struggles of people affected by Down Syndrome. There was plenty of good news to be shared also. The life expectancy has grown for people with this extra chromosome.

Wearing her princess tiara to the ball GiGi Gianni arrived on the stage dancing onstage to Lizzo's “About Damn Time” to speak about her journey as a spokesperson for the organization.

Her mother Nancy Gianni gave a passionate speech about the operation's growth since originally founding GiGi's Playhouse. She also mentioned the quest to find a major partner to collaborate with to push awareness and activities into the future.

Following the meal, a live auction commenced with pairings and packages to encourage bidders to donate while taking home a prize at the same time. Some items that auctioneer Shane McCarrell presented were suite passes to a White Sox or a Cubs game and a trip to Maui for seven nights. Bruce Springsteen's sold-out concert was a hit with the crowd until Taylor Swift's six-floor seats shook off the competition to the tune of $40,000!

More money was raised after that from donors with deep pockets waving their bid numbers in the air then the silent auction closed at 10:30 p.m.

Guests danced and mingled until late in the evening while supporting and celebrating a powerful organization. Cheers to another 20 years for GiGi and the gang!

Learn about the Virtual Playhouse plus lots more by visiting